When “The Left Hand of Darkness first appeared in 1969, the original jacket copy read, “Once in a long while a whole new world is created for us. Such worlds are Middle Earth, Dune – and such a world is Winter.”
Twenty-five years and a Hugo and Nebula Award later, these words remain true. In Winter, or Gethen, Ursula K. Le Guin has created a fully realized planet and people. But Gethen society is more than merely a fascinating creation. The concept of a society existing totally without sexual prejudices is even more relevant today than it was in 1969.
This special anniversary edition of The Left Hand of Darkness contains not only the complete, unaltered text of the landmark original but also a thought-provoking new afterword and four new appendixes by Ms. Le Guin.
When the human ambassador Genly Ai is sent to Gethen, the planet known as Winter by those outsiders who have experienced its arctic climate, he thinks that his mission will be a standard one of making peace between warring factions. Instead the ambassador finds himself wildly unprepared. For Gethen is inhabited by a society with a rich, ancient culture full of strange beauty and deadly intrigue – a society of people who are both male and female in one, and neither.
This lack of fixed gender, and the resulting lack of gender-based discrimination, is the very cornerstone of Gethen life. But Genly is all too human. Unless he can overcome his ingrained prejudices about the significance of “male” and “female, ” he may destroy both his mission and himself.